Title: Down the Rabbit Hole
Category: Alternate Reality, Adventure, Romance
Season: 3 (set between Learning Curve and Point of View)
Spoilers: There But for the Grace of God (1x20); Touchstone (2x14); Fair Game (3x03); Legacy (3x04); Learning Curve(3x05)
Summary: A malfunctioning quantum mirror causes an explosion and catches Major Samantha Carter unaware. When she comes to she discovers she has not only ended up on the wrong side of the mirror, but also the law! Forced to live as her counterpart, she tries to find a way home. Can she trust her CO's alternate or does he have a plan of his own?
Warnings: language, sex
Disclaimer: see profile
A/N: I don't have a beta, so any mistakes are my own. I always appreciate feedback and/or constructive criticism or just a comment to let me know why you (don't) like it.
Level 27, SGC
It was quiet in the briefing room, the only sound being the rustling of paper as General Hammond double-checked the forms in front of him to sign off on the transfer. Colonel O'Neill was looking a bit impatient – and bored, too – as he rocked on his feet and let his gaze wander around the room. Sam herself was patiently waiting for the General to finish, knowing it would only cause more trouble for her if something was overlooked and she really wasn't looking forward to being turned away from Area 51 over a typo or missing signature.
"So Carter, are you sure you don't need an escort?" Colonel O'Neill questioned with a hopeful smile.
Before she could answer General Hammond looked up sharply. "Major Carter will be accompanying our regular transport, which already has its own SFs, Colonel. Besides, you still have some paperwork to finish if I'm not mistaken."
"Right," the Colonel said, wincing. "But if Carter really needs my help-"
"I think she'll be fine, son," he replied dryly.
Sam shot her commanding officer an apologetic look and shrugged. It wasn't like she could come up with a valid reason for him to accompany her. "You would probably get bored anyway, Sir."
Colonel O'Neill shuffled closer to her, leaning down as if telling her something confidential while the General scribbled his signature and turned another page. "But I'm already bored, Major. It's so damn quiet and with Daniel and Teal'c still on Orban you were the only one I could bug during my breaks… now there'll be no one left," he whined softly.
"I'm sorry to hear that," she replied in a low tone.
"Yet you're smiling."
She shook her head as she pursed her lips together. "No, Sir… well, not really, anyway. It's just… I'm still getting used to being called major."
"Ah," the Colonel remarked, grinning.
Sam returned the grin, still feeling almost inanely proud at her recent promotion considering the work she did on a daily basis and the fact that she'd helped save the planet. In light of that a promotion to major really wasn't that big of a deal but to her it was, especially under the command of Colonel O'Neill and General Hammond as it meant they thought she was doing a good job. "But seriously, Sir," she continued, "you'd be bored out of your mind within an hour of arriving at Area 51."
"Because you'll be doing your geek thing?" He asked with raised eyebrows.
Suppressing an eye roll she nodded slowly. "Yes, that's exactly what I'll be doing."
"I think Major Carter is perfectly capable of doing this on her own," General Hammond said as collected the papers in front of him and bundled them into a folder. "I've heard the scientists at Area 51 were looking forward to her visit and the alien technology that she'll be bringing with her."
"But that's just it, Sir," Colonel O'Neill objected, "what if her groupies get out of control when they're geeking out? Or maybe those Goa'uld killer thingies escape and everyone at Groom Lake goes nuts? I could help since I'm immune now," he added, boasting.
His desperate pleas to get out of finishing up his mission reports made Sam snort and suddenly she found two pairs of eyes looking at her. "Um," she cleared her throat awkwardly, "I'm sure no one is going to attack me, Sir. And to be completely honest with you I don't think you're still immune; that was probably only temporarily after I gave you the injection with my protein marker and it should be out of your system right now."
"Well… that sucks. What if we run into one of Machiavelli's devices again?"
"Then you're lucky you have Major Carter on your team to get your six home and well again, Colonel," Hammond said.
Sam smiled at the General and took the folder with paperwork from him when he handed it over. "The two page turning devices we have in our possession don't contain any Goa'uld killers anymore between the Linvris, SG-1 and Doctor Fraiser, Sir. Other SG teams have already visited P3W-924 a while ago to retrieve Ma'chello's other inventions and they were very careful in doing so."
"Most of his devices haven't been studied at Area 51 yet and any research into his inventions has been halted since your encounter with the PTDs, which is another one of the reasons I'm sending Major Carter to Groom Lake, Jack."
Colonel O'Neill frowned and looked between them. "To have her work on them? I thought Carter would only be gone for a day, tops!"
"To donate some blood, Sir," she clarified. "In case something happens and they need my protein marker in large amounts."
"Technobabble and needles?" He asked warily.
General Hammond chuckled softly and clasped his shoulder. "Are you still insistent on joining Major Carter, son?"
Shrugging, Sam reached over the briefing table to retrieve the cardboard tube containing copies of the blueprints for the naquadah generator. "I don't mind the needles, Sir. But the rest of my visit will probably consist of helping store Ma'chello's inventions and explain them as best I can, as well as going over the schematics Merrin drew for me."
"Oh, of that naquadah generator thingy? You're not taking that with you, are you?" The Colonel asked, looking from her to the General, as if asking for confirmation. "I mean, we're keeping that, right?"
"The actual generator and blueprints will remain here, so we can study them further and hopefully create more once we have more materials," she replied and then held up the tube. "However, Area 51 wants a chance to study it as well, so they're getting a copy of the schematics."
General Hammond narrowed his eyes at his 2IC and briefly shook his head. "Well, as long as it meets your approval, Colonel," he said dryly. "Now, if that was all, I think Major Carter has to collect her things and go topside to meet the SFs that will accompany the transport and you still have some mission reports to finish."
"Yes Sir," Sam nodded. "Colonel."
"Fine," Colonel O'Neill muttered. "Be careful with those geeks, Carter. And don't overdo the technobabble thing; by the time you get back the boys will have returned from Orban and we can go back on the mission roster."
"Dismissed, Major," the General said with a smile after the Colonel had stopped rambling.
Smiling, she gave her CO a nod of acknowledgment to let him know she'd heard him and then she turned on her heels and headed for the doorway. If she was honest, she was actually kind of looking forward to a visit to Area 51. After her meeting with Merrin she had gotten back into scientist mode and she was still very excited about the naquadah generator she had managed to create after adapting the alien girl's design to the materials the SGC had. Earth's very first naquadah generator and she, Samantha Carter, had created it!
Area 51, Nevada
The transport had gone well and Sam had arrived earlier at the facility than she'd expected. Just like the last time she'd been here with SG-1 the personnel – minus Colonel Maybourne, who'd been transferred after 'losing' the second Stargate – had been welcoming and it turned out General Hammond had not been exaggerating when he said people had been looking forward to her visit. Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds had been very amiable and had once again appointed himself as her escort, showing her around and updating her on the research that was being done here at Area 51 after they had congratulated each other on their respective promotions.
He was nice and easy going – not unlike Colonel O'Neill when he wanted to be – and seemed very interested in her opinion and expertise, not afraid to ask for her input as he showed her around the labs. She in turn tried to give him as much relevant information as possible and even shared some of the stories about how SG-1 and other SG teams had acquired specific technology they were studying. They'd had lunch together after the initial tour and he'd given some of his men instructions to unload the regular alien tech that had been transported to Area 51 on schedule while they ate.
When they'd finished their meals he had escorted her to the department that wanted the blueprints for the naquadah generator and the next couple of hours they had gone over them as she tried to explain them and her own adjustments as best she could. Just as a headache had started to form from the scientists' incessant questions the Lieutenant Colonel had stepped in to take her away, saying the interview was over and that the staff was on their own now since she had to donate some blood and put away Ma'chello's inventions, including the page turning devices.
She had been grateful for his interference, not just because of her oncoming headache but also because she'd lost track of time – something that wasn't unusual for her when she was in scientist mode – and was hoping to finish up here in time to catch a flight back to Colorado Springs tonight and be home at a decent hour. Reynolds apparently understood and stayed with her as she donated a couple of vials of blood, in the meantime making small talk. It turned out he actually had a background in engineering but had also done some fieldwork in the past, before transferring to the research and development facility.
Now they were about to put away the last technology she had brought with her, the PTDs and tablets stored in separate containers but were waiting for someone to turn off the security system in the storage room. He had already used his security pass to give them access to the room and they'd entered it but the laser beam, motion sensors and whatnot in the large space before them were still activated while they waited near the door opening.
"Shouldn't be too much longer now," Reynolds said with a glance at his watch.
"Well, it's good to know adequate security measures have been taken considering all the things that are stored here."
He nodded in affirmation, making a vague hand gesture at their surroundings. "Yes, no one is just going to come in here… that is, if they even know where to look for all these things. No one actually expects there to be alien technology here, except for the conspiracy nuts and even they think it's mostly stuff from Roswell or other 'covered up' alien crashes."
Sam smiled, thinking how right he was. The whole Stargate Program was just too fantastical – and she was part of it! "Primitive and advanced alien technology, wormholes to other planets, humans taken from Earth populating the galaxy…"
"It's amazing," Reynolds said with a soft chuckle.
"Indeed it is." Canting her head she looked at him curiously, wondering if maybe he wanted to see it for himself. "You know, you could be part of it. More than you are here, I mean. We can always use good officers and your scientific background would be a definite advantage, Colonel."
For a moment he looked surprised and then quickly waved it away. "Nah, I'm probably too old…"
"I know you must have had your reasons to transfer out of the field and get a more secure and scientific posting here but if you're interested you should know that General Hammond has just gotten the green light to form three more off-world teams and he was told to start recruiting and training even more for next year, as the higher-ups are thinking of adding about a handful of teams per year with the way things are going now," Sam replied as she leaned closer. "And you're about the same age as most experienced team leaders, if not younger."
A slow smile appeared on Reynolds' face and he was just about to say something when the security system deactivated. "Ah well, looks like that's my sign. I'll leave you to it; just make sure to store the devices in the right spot. We've already entered them into the computer system," he said, consulting a small scanner he had in his hand and using it on the cases, "and they're supposed to go under the M, for Ma'chello. The names and details you provided in your forms have been added to our database so they only need to be put away and secured. If you don't need my help I'll be out in the corridor to call my superiors and see if they need you for anything else today."
"That's okay, I think I can find my way around here," Sam said, recalling the system from the reports she'd read and her visit from almost a year ago.
"Very well, Major," he replied, heading for the door before stopping himself and turning around to face her. "And I'll think about what you said."
She smiled and nodded in understanding. It had to be quite tempting for him to apply for a transfer to the SGC after hearing all the stories and seeing the results of many off-world missions here but he must have had his reasons to get out of the field too. Making changes like these at his age needed some serious contemplation and there was also a chance the man had a family here, so it wasn't as simple to move to Colorado Springs and put your life in danger on a daily basis for him as it would be for someone younger and unattached, like her. "That's all I'm asking, Sir."
With a sloppy salute he was off and Sam was alone in the storage room. The walls were covered with floor to ceiling storage racks and slightly shorter ones were placed throughout the center of the room, creating different rows and it reminded her of movie scenes from FBI or police archives, except those shelves were usually stored with boxes and files while these had pieces of alien technology – some in cases, others just out in the open without any packaging or covering – on them. Fortunately for her the rows were clearly labeled and the shelves were lined with small electronic screens that supposedly contained the artifact's name and information.
It was almost literally a trip down memory lane for her as she moved through the room, having acquired a lot of the items with SG-1 or done a preliminary on them after another team brought it back. The more teams the SGC had the more missions were done, which increased the likelihood of obtaining some kind of alien technology or at least an artifact with cultural significance and unfortunately for Sam that also meant she didn't get first dibs on anything coming through the 'gate anymore. It was a shame but it simply wasn't doable and she loved her work in the field so she wasn't about to give up on that to be bound to her lab just to have every piece of technology pass her workbench. At least she still heard about the various studies done at the SGC during breaks in the commissary, over email, from her colleagues or during the monthly meetings from the science department.
She briefly wondered if Reynolds felt the same way about studying the various alien devices now that the excitement of actually having proof of intelligent alien life and other technologies was dying down and it was becoming business as usual with the Program being in its third year. Those thoughts left her mind though the minute she found the aisle for 'M' and started hunting down the correct shelves for her PTDs and tablets. The area dedicated to Ma'chello's inventions was surprisingly large – obviously everything except the wallpaper and carpet had been taken from his homeplanet – but the two empty spots for the cases were easy to find. A press of a button confirmed Sam's assumption as the electronic screen showed the tablets and page turning devices went there. She double-checked the information displayed on them, only semi-surprised to see a reference to her and her protein marker listed and placed the two cases in the correct places before securing them – physically and electronically by registering her thumbprint on the display.
Once she was done Sam turned around to retrace her steps, looking around the storage room with a small sense of wonder at the technology and artifacts they had managed to collect since the start of the SGC. Most of the items looked vaguely familiar and others she outright recognized and could name the planet – or its designation – from where it came. Some elicited a brief tingle as their materials interacted with the naquadah in her blood and the ones with large amounts of the alien element caused her blood to zing. Reaching the end of the row she suddenly started feeling queasy and, after placing a hand on her stomach, she looked around for the source and quickly found it; there was a 'huge hunk of rock' as Colonel O'Neill would describe it at the end and from her body's reaction she figured it contained huge amounts of naquadah as well.
Only after she had rounded the corner and object did she recognize it as the mirror from P3R-233 and quickly took a few steps back to create some distance between them, remembering what Daniel had said about it transporting him to an alternate reality in the first year of the Program. Not that many people – including herself, at first – had believed his crazy story in spite of his injury… well, not until his information about a Goa'uld attack on Earth had proven to be correct and SG-1 had disobeyed orders to look into it, thereby ending up on Apophis' mothership and preventing his and Klorel's attack.
The piece of rock seemed completely harmless and the 'mirror' surface was ink black at the moment but Sam was still wary. Daniel had mentioned it suddenly activating, which caused the surface to turn into some sort of window into an alternate reality – not that he'd known that at the time, as the room looked exactly like the one he was in – and while he thought it was most likely some kind of controller he'd picked up that had activated the 'mirror' they had never been able to prove it as he had left the device behind in the alternate reality. Fortunately for him the mirror had still been active by the time he had figured out how to get home but after General Hammond had ordered all the items from P3R-233 to be retrieved the mirror was deactivated and had remained so ever since.
Still, she wasn't going to take any chances and be stupid enough to touch the surface because for all she knew Daniel had been wrong and the 'mirror' had some kind of motion sensor that made it come alive if someone stood in front of it, or perhaps it activated on touch. That, however, didn't mean she wasn't fascinated by this piece of technology and what the existence of alternate realities meant for the laws of physics. Einstein had predicted the concept of alternate realities a long time ago but to actually have proof and be able to visit a reality other than one's own – it was the stuff dreams were made of for a physicist!
Sam wondered if that was why whoever had created the 'mirror' had, well, created it; to test their theory of multiverses and possibly visit alternate realities to see what could have been? Glancing at her watch she figured she had to get going before Colonel Reynolds would send in the SFs, wondering what was taking her so long. But she made a mental note of asking him if any further studies had been done on this strange mirror or if it was merely collecting dust here, which would be a real shame.
Just as she turned around she saw something from the corner of her eye and whipped her head back, startled to suddenly see the mirror's surface shimmer before an image formed – and it wasn't her reflection. Her breath hitched as she realized she was actually looking at a window into an alternate universe and while she was mesmerized, Sam wasn't foolish enough to move forward and get a closer look. No, instead she took a couple of more steps backwards, recalling Daniel's tale about touching it and being transferred into the other reality, until her back hit the partitioning fence dividing the warehouse into different sections.
"Holy Hannah!" She gasped as she recognized a workbench, some lab equipment and even a laptop in the mirror's image. There didn't appear to be anyone on the other side or at least not in her view but all of a sudden the image flickered and the surface distorted a bit until it restored itself. Daniel had never mentioned anything about that and taking it as an ominous sign Sam started slowly walking along the partition towards the exit. Her gaze never left the mirror, though, and suddenly she saw something even more startling; smoke and sparks at the foot of the mirror but it was clearly taking place on the other reality.
However, before she could react in any way there was an explosion and Sam instinctively turned away and brought up her hands to cover her face, even though it was like bracing yourself for something that happened on TV. Or so she thought until she felt the heat coming through the mirror and the scent of something burning entered her nostrils. There was a bright white light that hurt her already closed eyes, a searing heat and the sound of a fire crackling before she lost consciousness…